So in the latest podcast (about Prince of Persia), Xtien mentioned the British series Coupling, and said that he wasn’t a fan. Personally, I think the series is brilliant, and really goes beyond a typical sitcom. I could wax eloquent about it, but I would like to hear what other people think.

If you haven’t seen the series, you can watch it on Netflix Instant Queue. If you just want to try one episode, I would recommend “The Girl with Two Breasts” from Series One. I think that encapsulates much of what is great about the series.


The first three series were brilliant, the Jeff character really added a lot to the show. While I still liked the fourth, it wasn’t quite the same without him. It’d be like Seinfeld without Kramer or George.

I agree in theory about the fourth series (and yes, it never really was the same), but I felt that Jane became a much more fleshed-out character during that series, so it’s difficult for me to really complain.

It’s also worthwhile to point out (for those who don’t know) that the writer of Coupling wrote some of the best individual episodes of the new Doctor Who series, and is currently the head writer of the show.

Coupling is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. I watched the first season when it was gifted to me on DVD by my cousin. I was really skeptical at first, but got won over fast. Then I took the DVD to my friends’ place, and they were REALLY skeptical when they heard the canned laughter. I just told them to trust me and keep watching. By the end of the second episode, we were all rolling around the floor laughing. As a communal experience, Coupling is much funnier than watching it by yourself.

I just absolutely love the show. However, the Fourth series really wasn’t the same. It was still funnier than a lot of shows, but it was no longer the funniest show ever, so it was a drastic fall.

I love it.

Once Jeff left, I was done.

The loss of Jeff crippled the show for me. Its a shame that the actor hasn’t really found a comfortable niche since Coupling ended because he was the best thing about it.

Ever see the US version? (:::shudder::::)

Actually, the “remake” episodes were abysmal, but a couple of the “original” eps that never aired made through the pipes of the intarwebs and at least weren’t painful to watch. Still, though, I wish US networks would just bring over great shows like the UK Coupling intact. I guess the commercial length is an issue, and programmers wouldn’t know what to do with the short series/seasons over here.

That’s actually how I got into the original version in the first place: I was curious about the American remake because I heard it was based on a British show, so I watched it and was singularly unimpressed. Then I noticed that the same episode was airing on BBC America, so I flipped over to watch the last few minutes. (It ran longer because of commercials, which I presume weren’t in the original version.) Not only were the characters more likable, but the added bits of dialog were actually really funny! From then on, I watched both versions, but the original is drastically superior.

As a side note, once I started watching Coupling, I saw commercials for The Office, which got me into that show. Then from there, I started watching Doctor Who, Torchwood, Primeval, That Mitchell and Webb Look…basically, all of my BBC America viewing started with Coupling!

Side topic: Why hasn’t the U.S. adopted the BBC model of short, self-contained series that run for a while, end, then potentially start up again a year (or several years) later? It seems like this kind of model may have saved shows like Firefly, where they could air for a short time, then develop a fan base to drive demand for the next series. I would much rather have a show that comes back a few years later, rather than a show that airs for four episodes then gets cancelled.

No secret listeners!

IIRC, he left Coupling because he didn’t want to play Jeff, a comic character. Instead, he wanted to do heavy drama roles.

Jack Davenport’s monologues on Coupling were absolutely epic.

Every time Jack Davenport’s character came on the screen during Pirates of the Caribbean, I heard suppressed giggling among the friends I was sitting with, along with someone whispering “It’s Steve”!

Side-note: Are you the same Andy Bates world-famous for performing live on stage with Jonathan Coulton? Or is your username just a tribute to his greatness?

Yes, one and the same. You flatter me, sir!

Heh. The live Coulton CD (minus a few of the more adult songs–don’t really want to explain “First of May” or “Shop Vac” to my 7-year-old) is in heavy rotation on our daily commute, so my son and I hear your name on a weekly basis. :)

So I tried this again tonight after finding this thread, figuring I’d just missed the boat the first time around. You all seem pretty passionate about the show. Plus, the recommendations of Rock8man carry a good deal of weight with me.

I started off with Andy’s recommended one-off episode, “The Girl with Two Breasts” and then watched the episode that follows that one, “The Cupboard of Patrick’s Love”. I went back to a couple of other episodes I’d already seen after that.

Sorry. Still doesn’t work for me. At all. I’d go so far as to say that just about every choice they make grates on me. Let me give you an example. I thought the one thing “The Girl with Two Breasts” had going for it was the language barrier. That was at least amusing. More than that actually. It bordered on touching. Part of this is because Richard Coyle is very, very good. And the actress playing opposite him is quite good too and their chemistry is nice. I totally got what was going on in the scene. It was almost starting to charm me.

Then they flipped to her language and explained every joke to me. Come on.

This was frustrating and annoying…but also illuminating. I thought only Americans needed to have their sitcom jokes explained to them. Turns out Brits do too.

To be fair, I think the whole sitcom rhythm just no longer works for me. The canned laughter is part of it (and that is just flat out horrid here…horrid), but it’s more than that. I can’t really watch most sitcoms. I loved the original “Office” and really fell for the first two seasons of the American version. I thought the first season of the show “Party Down” was brilliant. “Sports Night” is one of my favorite shows evar. Beyond those examples I don’t really watch sitcoms. Is this why I don’t get “Coupling”? I was a fan of “Seinfeld”, so I can’t write off my problem with “Coupling” as a hangup about artificiality. It’s something else.

I don’t know. The show flat doesn’t work for me. Still I’d be interested in hearing Andy–or any of you–wax eloquent about it.

Anyway, I gave it another try.


“I forgot how to understand English.”

But without the language switch the punchline at the end wouldn’t work.

That’s exactly it. Not just in this episode Xtien, but in many others. Coupling actually pulls the “watch from one perspective, and then another” trick many times in many episodes throughout the different seasons. However, the object is not to try to explain every joke, but to come up with even funnier jokes than you would expect. I had the same instinct when I first watched the show. “Oh look, they’re actually showing us everything from the other side, that’s kind of disappointing and predictable”. But then the actual jokes from the other side defied my expectations and were funnier than I thought they’d be having experienced only one side of the story. It also sets up one of my favorite patterns in Coupling: the setting up of the hugely delayed punch line. Something will happen that is unexplained and weird in the first 5 minutes, and then at the 28 minute mark, they’ll finally explain it, and the way it clicks together after so long and is way funnier than any explanation you came up with in your own head makes it totally worth it.

Still, I do agree about the atrocious canned laughter. It is seriously bothersome. But I’d say if the raunchy sex humor doesn’t strike a cord and isn’t uproariously funny after the first couple of episodes for anyone, then the show isn’t going to ever connect with you. That raunchy humor is the basic backbone of the show, as are the relationship between the 6 cast members on the show. It’s the mixing of the sweet relationships with the sex jokes that makes for a really well written and perfectly performed show.

I remember watching what I thought was one of the weaker episodes in Season 3. It was another one of those episodes where they kept showing things, one after another, that didn’t make sense. By that time a pattern had set in, and as audience member you know what’s coming. You know that they’re going to go back in time and show things from another perspective, and you’re tired of it. It’s not really funny anymore, and you think it’s all a bit stale in this episode, as everyone goes through the motions and does their punchlines and show goes on. I remember feeling bored in that episode. But then they showed things from the other perspective, and I could not BELIEVE how funny it was. Every single thing I had to suffer through from the first perspective was totally worth it once they showed you the other side. All was forgiven because the humor is still so imaginative that they managed to shock me once again.

Speaking of Coupling, and in particular, Richard Coyle, he was rather good as Moist von Lipwig in the adaptation of Going Postal shown on British TV this weekend…